NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Newport News is in desperate need of foster parents.
Right now, 30% of kids in foster care are placed in homes outside the Peninsula city, and that's not ideal for the children.
The way Keebee Oladipo talks about fostering children may be enough to get you interested.
"Oh wow..." she said when asked what the rewards of fostering are, "Many rewards, and just to see a child smile."
She's fostered 35 kids since 2012 and describes what she does as a 'passion' and a 'calling.'
"There are some children who you never lose contact with," she said.
As of August, it's her full-time job. She's fostered kids from infancy to young adulthood.
When asked if it's tough to say goodbye to kids when they're reunified with biological parents, she said, "It wasn't easy in the beginning, but now I understand the purpose of what I'm doing."
She has adopted some children over the years but never goes into a foster relationship expecting that outcome.
Newport News is looking for more people like her.
"Your job is to stand in the gap for these children that need you," Kimberly Neals, Newport News Foster Parent Recruiter-Trainer, said. "They're in crisis and they need someone to love them and provide stability for them, temporarily."
Fostering a child outside of their home town can hinder that reunification with the biological family.
"Traffic may be a little heavy, they may get to their visitation late," Neals said.
It also means a child isn't attending their regular school, church or other activities.
"We want our children to be in our community. We want them to have a sense of normalcy," Neals said.
So, the city has set out a goal of bringing on board 60 more Newport News foster parents by the end of 2020.
The parents will be provided with six weeks of training, a case manager and 24-hour crisis intervention.
Oladipo admits, it's not always easy. But it's incredibly rewarding.
"A lot of these children are traumatized. So, it's a lot of work that I had to do on myself and you grow with it," Oladipo said.
"We have to plant seeds," Neals explained. "We might not always see the tree meet its full potential, but it's our job to plant the seeds for our children in our communities."
If you're interested in becoming a foster parent in Newport News, there's an informational meeting on Thursday, November 14 at 6 p.m. at the Marriott at City Center. Light food will be served.
If you can't attend that meeting, there's another slated for November 21 at 6 p.m. at the Newport News Human Services Department located at 6060 Jefferson Ave.